Few civilizations can boast such a great range and quality of artistic achievement as can the Chinese. The Chinese genius has created a vast store of masterpieces in almost every art form, ranging from monumental cave sculptures to the varied products of skilled artisan - generally classified among the "minor arts". It is in this area of the minor arts that the Chinese have particularly distinguished themselves in the more recent past of their long history. The full flowering of all the arts and crafts during this seventeenth and eighteenth centuries represents, in a way, the crowning accomplished of Chinese art, which subsequently entered a period of general decline. In the words of one commentator, as quoted in the present text: 'Probably at no time or place in the history of the world there were craftsmen more active, more ingenious, more encouraged than in the China of Ch'ien Lung (1736-95). Manipulating with equal dexterity every kind of material, metals, stone, pottery, wood, horn, leather, amber, lacquer, mother-of-pearl, the output of their myriads of looms, lathes, kilns, and workshops was amazing in quantity, endless in variety....The abundance was so great that after 130 years of the most reckless wear and tear, the mere remnants still gladden an impoverished world with glimpses of the old enchantment.' This, then, is the period that coincided with the introduction and popularization of snuff in China, and consequently with the development of the snuff bottle. All the skill's and ingenuity of the Chinese artisans were lavished upon the production of these tiny bottles, making them pre-eminent representatives of the best in Chinese craftsmanship. The present work is the first full account in any language of this facet of Chinese art. It includes a comprehensive treatment of the origins and development of the snuff bottle in China as well as over 150 actual-size reproductions, the majority in full color. It is a fascinating story by an enthusiastic collector, who, captivated by the beauty and ingenuity found in these bottles, had the interest to delve into historical background, techinques of manufacture, kind and quality of materials, classification and organizations of types, and the like, as well as a delightfully informal style with which to communicate her wide knowledge and enthusiasm to the reader. As such the book is not only and invaluable document for all interest in the history of Chinese art, but also a lucid and fascinating guidebook for the collector, or would-be collector, both of snuff bottles and of other products of Chinese craftmanship.
Published by Charles E. Tuttle Company: Publishers, Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan, 1971
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